+the scene

8 Times Hit Songs Expertly Sampled/Interpolated Other Hit Songs!

Written by Ashley Parham. Published: February 01 2024
(Photos: Ed Sheeran/TLC/YouTube)


Music is both a personal creative endeavor and a collaborative experience. The collaborative part of music creation usually refers to working with people like co-writers, musicians, and producers. However, it can also be related to taking inspiration from other musicians. The acts of sampling and interpolation are the results of directly drawing inspiration from pre-existing music. When a song includes a sample, that means the artist has directly taken part of another song to add to their own. When a song includes interpolation, this means an exact beat or part of a song has been replicated for use in another song. They are very similar concepts. The difference is just with whether or not the borrowed sound was essentially cut and pasted into the new song or if it was recreated for new use. Here’s 8 times sampling and interpolation were used in hit songs!


1. "Cheers (Drink To That)" by Rihanna

Avril Lavigne was a 2000s pop-punk It Girl. It seems like every teenage girl was listening to her in the 2000s, and apparentlyRihanna was no exception. Lavigne’s 2002 ballad “I’m With You” features a series of “yeah”s in the bridge that Rihanna included in the intro of her 2010 party song “Cheers (Drink To That)”. This song proves that sampling does not take away from an artist’s creativity. The two songs are entirely different genres. “I’m With You” is a rock ballad about feeling lonely while single, while "Cheers (Drink To That)” is a fun song that celebrates partying. The sample works effectively without diminishing the uniqueness of Rihanna’s music. 






2. "Bad Liar" by Selena Gomez

Selena Gomez is a modern pop princess, but she took inspiration from 1970s New Wave for her 2017 song “Bad Liar”. “Bad Liar” utilizes the iconic baseline from the 1977 hit “Psycho Killer" by Talking Heads. The music video for Gomez’s song even takes place in 1978 to further establish the '70s influence. Talking Heads frontman David Byrne even took to social media to express his approval for the song. The interpolation of the bassline from “Psycho Killer” gives a more toned down approach to Gomez’s style. Where her early work was inspired by the pop-punk and dance-pop sounds of the time, she dives into a new genre of pop with this beat. The song was intentionally written around the baseline, and it successfully gives a second life to an already celebrated tune. The vibe of the song and the use of interpolation wonderfully homage to the creative movements of the '70s.






3. "Centuries" by Fall Out Boy

Fall Out Boy’s most-streamed song features a sample. Their 2015 hit “Centuries” interpolates Suzanne Vega’s 1981 hit “Tom’s Diner”. “Centuries” begins with a series of “da da da”s in the same style that Vega sang on “Tom’s Diner”; however, the vocals for this version are supplied by Lolo (whom you may know from Panic! At The Disco’s “Miss Jackson”). Vocalist Patrick Stump also recreates Vega’s tune in the build-up to the chorus, and you can hear Lolo’s feature in the background throughout the song. Considering the song has reached over 1 billion streams on Spotify, it is clear that the usage of this tune has worked out well for the band. Fall Out Boy has been clear about the inspiration they have taken from various genres of music over the years. Their ability to incorporate multiple musical styles into their work is part of what makes them so special as a rock band. It is certainly impressive that they turned part of a folk-pop song into a major punk-pop empowerment anthem.






4. "Break up with your girlfriend, i’m bored" by Ariana Grande

NSYNC were a pop sensation through the '90s and early-2000s. Everyone was obsessed with them, and their reunion in 2023 has put the boy band back in the spotlight. Before the reunion, though, it was Ariana Grande who drew attention back to their music. Grande’s hit single “break up with your girlfriend, i’m bored” interpolates the pre-chorus of NSYNC’s “It Makes Me Ill”. For the bridge of her song, Grande borrows the cadence and most of the lyrics from NSYNC. Both songs deal with relationship problems, but NSYNC focuses on jealousy when an ex shows another person attention while Grande expresses frustration for the object of her affection being in a relationship. Despite the borrowed lines, “break up with your girlfriend, i’m bored” is still a song that represents Grande’s discography well.






5. "Without Me" by Halsey

Justin Timberlake has been a hitmaker throughout his career. It makes sense that music from both his boy band and his solo career inspired the pop girlies in the 2010s.Halsey’s “Without Me” interpolates JT’s “Cry Me a River”, one of the most famous breakup songs of the 2000s. Halsey decided to emulate that energy for her own breakup song. The bridge of “Without Me” borrows a line from the chorus of “Cry Me a River”. “Without Me” is a powerful song. Given the fact that it was inspired by such a public relationship, much like the experience Timberlake also sang out, the usage of those lyrics work perfectly to achieve the intended vibe.






6. "Question…?" by Taylor Swift 

In case you were wondering, artists can even pull inspiration from their own discography. Taylor Swift revisited her 2014 hit “Out of the Woods” when creating “Question…?” for her 2022 albumMidnights. “Question…?” begins with the line “I remember…” in the same style as she sang in “Out of the Woods”. Swift has been re-recording her musical catalog for the last few years in order to gain ownership over her own music. It is likely that her re-recording process has helped inspire new music. 1989 (Taylor’s Version) was released just a year afterMidnights, so it would make sense that songs from the original 1989 were on her mind at the time of writingMidnights. Starting a new song with an old line is an effective way to establish the vibe of a song. Swift is a brilliant songwriter. She knows what she is doing with every line, and this interpolation worked well to inject part of an older fan favorite into a new hit.






7. "Shape of You" by Ed Sheeran 

Ed Sheeran is no stranger to love songs, though “Shape of You” is a bit of a departure from his usual love song. The song focuses on the physical attraction felt from meeting someone in a bar. The song is an earworm with a catchy beat that you might recognize from another hit: “No Scrubs” by TLC. “No Scrubs” details a very different story. Rather than focusing on new love, the R&B girl group disses an ex who wasn’t up to dating standards. Even with the lyrical differences, both songs are fun and danceable. The similarities have been celebrated by many, including pop singer Sabrina Carpenter, who did amash-up cover of the songs in 2019.






8. "Stan" by Eminem

Last but not least, this is arguably the best known example of musical sampling on this list. Eminem sampled “Thank You” byDido for his iconic song “Stan”. The song is considered one of the best in Eminem’s discography, and it is also the origin of why we use the term “stan” to refer to intense fans of celebrities or media. “Stan” is a narrative song, telling the fictional story of an obsessive fan who turns to dangerous acts after not receiving the attention he feels he deserves from Eminem. The song is a dramatization of the intense connection fans in parasocial relationships with celebrities feel. The song has a serious feel, and Dido’s soft vocals provide a contrast to the harsh nature of Eminem’s original lyrics. Eminem has stated that the story of “Stan” was inspired by Dido’s line “your picture on my wall / reminds me that it’s not so bad…”. He included a sample of this line as the intro and chorus of his own song, and Dido herself not only features in the music video for the song but has also performed her bit in live performances alongside Eminem.






Samples and interpolation are a way to enhance an artist’s own creativity while paying tribute to the music that inspired them. The success of these songs showcase the evolution of art while also reminding us of some great music from the past!